I can generally tell when our youngest child’s birthday is nearing by the battle between my husband and me regarding whether or not to turn on the heat. Friends, it got down to 29 degrees last night, and still, he holds firm. Divorce pending. And, yes, a birthday looms.
For some time now, on the dry-erase board that houses a variety of lists (to-do, to buy, to remember, to pretend), the phrase “Print Adult Paperwork” has loomed. When I first wrote it, it was for a time well into the future and for an event that I laughed off with a wave. Today, that necessity has come flying into focus, and, oh, I’m not laughing.
Okay, I’m laughing a little bit but mostly I’m all over the parental emotional map. Tears? Yes. Nostalgia? Yes. Pride? Yes. Laughter? Yes. Panic? Yes. I suppose the most consistent feeling is one of “Oh, that was not enough time! Just a little more, please!’
Two days ago, our youngest child shifted out of childhood as he hit the magical age of eighteen. Of course, that shift is a blurry one as we woke up the following day to find that this boy (all boy) still hadn’t cleaned his room, left fresh whiskers on the bathroom sink, couldn’t find his misplaced canoe-sized sneakers, was ravenous (well, yeah, he slept through both breakfast and brunch), and had yet to firm up a job for the current school year (the one that started ten weeks ago).
Adult? Kind of.
My husband and I are confidently prepared for the coming rounds of “I’m an adult now!”
This is thanks to our oldest child and a variety of previous practice perfecting conversation-canceling responses. What worked best? Oh, that’s simple. In response to that “I’m an adult” pushback, we ask, “Perfect! Tell us about all the adult things you are doing and maybe we can talk about canceling curfew.”
What always comes next is a very short list (from the child) that we (the parents) counter with things like “Aren’t you still eating our food for free, living in our home at no cost, enjoying an allowance, utilizing each of our insurance plans and … do you want us to go on? No? Ah, maybe not quite fully adulting yet, then.”
I know that sounds harsh but, in our home, being an adult doesn’t come with a coupon to treat your family with a downward shift in respect. So, yes, I am fully aware that we are about to embark on a final round of curfew controversy, and location services debates, dinner attendance pushback, and more.
But that Adult Paperwork? Not up for discussion.
When I wrote “Print Adult Paperwork” on the whiteboard, I had no idea that our youngest had no idea what that meant. I sort of just assumed his sibling had told him all about it with a gigantic eye-roll three years ago when it was their turn. Last week, my son flopped onto the couch in my office and asked, with the snark of a seventeen-year-old proclaiming personal offense, “So what is this Adult Paperwork? What does that even mean?”
And so I explained in my softest voice about how life sometimes goes sideways with a flash and how we, his parents, would soon need his permission to advocate for him. Soon, the printer was grinding out the paperwork and soon, we will sit signing the pages before delivering them to our safety deposit box.
So what is Adult Paperwork? And why must you insist on it? And will your child flip the heckle out when asked to sign? Maybe. Make it more palatable by showing them your own (Dear Lord, please have your own).
Did you know that if, after turning 18, your child becomes ill or hospitalized, you lose the right to information regarding their situation?
- HIPPA Authorization: The second a child turns 18, you lose your right, as a parent, to gain access to (or make decisions about) their healthcare. No big deal, right? You didn’t want to attend any more vaccinations or physicals anyway.
Your child may suddenly just “go dark” while at college. You may think they are out making new friends or deep into studying … and then … a phone call from the school informs you that there is a medical issue. Imagine calling the hospital, frantically, only to be told that they cannot give you any details because this child, your child, is an adult by law. Perhaps your child has had a mental breakdown. Perhaps they are in surgery. Perhaps they are in a coma. You are lost, devastated, terrified … and you have no way to get in.
The HIPPA Authorization is your key to that medical door.
- Advanced Medical Directive/Living Will: End-of-life decisions are a horrible thing to have to think about, especially when it comes to our children. How could we ever face a doctor asking us if our child had preferences on organ donation or final wishes?
Baby adults are reckless, perhaps the most reckless of all adults. Accidents do happen. Illnesses do arrive. End-of-life preferences are horrible to think about yet we must, as parents, talk to our children about them. Until your child finds a life partner, the gift of honoring their last wishes will be in your hands.
The Advanced Medical Directive offers you the ability to give that gift.
- Power of Attorney: Many are quite familiar with this document but many do not use it for fear that someone will swoop inappropriately. The POA is not like a free pass or coupon to be waived for use. Receivers do not accept the POA willy-nilly–instead, it is accepted only for specific situations.
We want nothing more, as parents, than for our baby adults to make responsible decisions all by their baby adult selves. Should they become unable to (for medical reasons, not because they are just, well, you know … ), we, as parents, will likely be next in line–but we can only be next in line with a POA.
The Power of Attorney appoints you as a decision-making agent for your child.
Thinking “That won’t happen to us” will not prevent tragic events from arriving at our doorsteps. Right now, in the hospital closest to you, an Intensive Care Unit is full of people who also thought it would never happen to them. I used to think that as well, actually. Then my brother was in a horrific accident and the “who is in control here” arguments erupted almost immediately. We are still dealing with the fallout of those arguments nearly a decade later, though my brother did survive.
The simple truth is that you cannot ignore the reality that extraordinarily terrible events do happen. Is it morbid? Yes. Will you feel nosy placing these forms in front of your newly minted adult? Probably. Will your newly minted adult think you are in their business? For sure.
Are these forms still critical? YES.
If you are still thinking “Okay, but my child would never keep health issues from me or block me from access …” try again, for two reasons: a) yes, they would; b) they especially would if they are incapacitated. Lightning did strike twice in our home when our eldest child had a mental health crisis. When they signed these forms, they were not happy about it and gave us all the pushback available. We had no idea that in just a few short years we would be pulling the documents from the safety deposit box in order to successfully start the process of getting them well.
I have zero doubt that without that ability, our lives would have taken a much different and sad turn.
Where can you find these forms? An internet search will lead you there. I prefer Rocket Lawyer as you can download three forms (perfect!) a no cost. Still, if you do have to pay a fee, do so. I recommend downloading the forms blank and stashing them away so that you can use them again for other members of your household.
Oh, and about the other arguments that are about to erupt in our now-full-of-adults household? Some bonus content:
- Curfew: Yes, it will still be enforced. More flexibility? Sure. But my mom-senses do not allow me to sleep until I know everyone who is coming home, is home. You, I tell my child, do not want to show up three hours past curfew and meet the dragon that I become via a combo of exhaustion and worry.
- Location Services: Turned on, period. Do I really care where my child is? Typically not. Honestly, I’m too lazy to check. But if things do go sideways, we need to be able to track that last location. If my child pushes back? I mean, sadly, I can just turn on the news to show them just how sideways things can go.
- Dinner RSVPs: This is where we differ from many families but, yes, we do insist on a heads-up if any of our at-home children will not be home for dinner. We love a family dinner at the table. We do not love cooking a family dinner only to have the family not show up with no notice. Food is expensive. My time? More expensive.
Raising children is not easy. When they do cross that magical line to adulthood? Also, not easy. It comes quickly and we are often surprised at how not ready we are to watch them leave the nest. Our children will tell us differently but, we are still the boss of them though in a much different form.
In the matter of a health crisis? This crucial.